Page images

only an imaginary line, live at peace with each other? Would not disputes constantly arise, and cause almost constant war between them?" "Undoubtedly-with this generation. You have sown such bitterness at the south, you have put such an ocean of blood between the two sections, that I despair of seeing any harmony in my time. Our children may forget this war, but we cannot."

"I think the bitterness you speak of, sir," said the Colonel, "does not really exist. We meet and talk here as friends; our soldiers meet and fraternize with each other; and I feel sure that, if the Union were restored, a more friendly feeling would arise between us than has ever existed. The war has made us know and respect each other better than before. This is the view of very many Southern men; I have had it from many of them-your leading citi



[ocr errors]

shut you up in Richmond. Sherman is before Atlanta. Had you not, then, better accept honorable terms while you can retain your prestige, and save the pride of the Southern people?"

Mr. Davis smiled.

[ocr errors]

"I respect your earnestness, Colonel, but you do not seem to understand the situation. We are not exactly shut up in Richmond. If your papers tell the truth, it is your capital that is in danger, not ours. Some weeks ago, Grant crossed the Rapidan to whip Lee, and take Richmond. Lee drove him in the first battle, and then Grant executed what your people call a brilliant flank movement,' and fought Lee again. Lee drove him a second time, and then Grant made another flank movement;' and so they kept on, Lee whipping, and Grant flanking, until Grant got where he is now. And what is the net result? Grant has lost seventy-five or eighty thousand men-more than Lee had at the outset and is no nearer taking Richmond than at first; and Lee, whose front has never been broken, holds him completely in check, and has men enough to spare to invade Maryland, and threaten Washington! Sherman, to be sure, is before Atlanta; but suppose he is, and suppose he takes it? You know, that the farther he goes from his base of supplies, the weaker he grows, and the more disastrous defeat will be to him. And defeat may come. So, in a military un-view, I should certainly say our position was better than yours.

They are mistaken," replied Mr. Davis. "They do not understand Southern sentiment. How can we feel anything but bitterness towards men who deny us our rights? If you enter my house and drive me out of it, am I not your natural enemy?"

"You put the case too strongly. But we cannot fight forever; the war must end at some time; we must finally agree upon something ⚫ can we not agree now, and stop this frightful carnage? We are both Christian men, Mr. Davis. Can you, as a Christian man, leave tried any means that may lead to peace?"

"No, I cannot. I desire peace as much as "As to money; we are richer than you are you do. I deplore bloodshed as much as you You smile; but admit that our paper is worth do; but I feel that not one drop of the blood nothing, it answers as a circulating medium; shed in this war is on my hands-I can look up and we hold it all ourselves. If every dollar of to my God and say this. I tried all in my power it were lost, we should, as we have no foreign to avert this war. I saw it coming, and for debt, be none the poorer. But it is worth twelve years I worked, night and day, to pre-something; it has the solid basis of a large vent it, but I could not. The North was mad and blind; it would not let us govern ourselves; and so the war came, and now it must go on till the last man of this generation falls in his tracks, and his children seize his musket and fight his battle, unless you acknowledge our right to self-government. We are not fighting for slavery. We are fighting for independenceand that, or extermination, we will have."

"And there are, at least, four and a half millions of us left; so you see you have a work before you," said Mr. Benjamin, with a decided


"We have no wish to exterminate you," answered the Colonel. "I believe what I have said, that there is no bitterness between the Northern and Southern people. The North, I know, loves the South. When peace comes, it will pour money and means into your hands to repair the waste caused by the war; and it would now welcome you back, and forgive you all the loss and bloodshed you have caused. But we must crush your armies, and exterminate your Government. And is not that already nearly done? You are wholly without money, and at the end of your resources. Grant has

cotton crop, while yours rests on nothing, and you owe all the world. As to resources; we do not lack for arms or ammunition, and we have still a wide territory from which to gather supplies. So, you see, we are not in extremities. But if we were-if we were without money, without food, without weapons-if our whole country were devastated, and our armies crushed and disbanded, could we, without giving up our manhood, give up our right to govern ourselves? Would you not rather die, and feel yourself a man, than live, and be subject to a foreign power?"

[ocr errors]

"From your stand-point there is force in what you say," replied the Colonel. But we did not come here to argue with you, Mr. Davis. We came, hoping to find some honorable way to peace; and I am grieved to hear you say what you do. When I have seen your young men dying on the battle-field, and your old men, women and children, starving in their homes, I have felt I could risk my life to save them. For that reason I am here; and I am grieved, grieved, that there is no hope."

"I know your motives, Colonel Jaquess, and I honor you for them; but what can I do more

than I am doing? I would give my poor life, gladly, if it would bring peace and good-will to the two countries; but it would not. It is with your own people you should labor. It is they who desolate our homes, burn our wheat-fields, break the wheels of wagons carrying away our women and children, and destroy supplies meant for our sick and wounded. At your door lies all the misery and the crime of this war-and it is a fearful, fearful account."

"Not all of it, Mr. Davis. I admit a fearful account, but it is not all at our door. The pas sions of both sides are aroused. Unarmed men are hanged, prisoners are shot down in cold blood, by yourselves. Elements of barbarism are entering the war on both sides, that should make us you and me, as Christian men-shudder to think of. In God's name, then, let us stop it. Let us do something, concede something, to bring about peace. You cannot expect, with only four and a half millions, as Mr. Benjamin says you have, to hold out forever against twenty millions."

Again Mr. Davis smiled.

"Do you suppose there are twenty millions at the North determined to crush us ?"

"I do to crush your government. A small number of our people, a very small number, are your friends-Secessionists. The rest differ about measures and candidates, but are united in the determination to sustain the Union. Whoever is elected in November, he must be committed to a vigorous prosecution of the war."

Mr. Davis still looking incredulous, I remarked:

"It is so, sir. Whoever tells you otherwise deceives you. I think I know Northern sentiment, and I assure you it is so. You know we have a system of lyceum-lecturing in our large towns. At the close of these lectures, it is the custom of the people to come upon the platform and talk with the lecturer. This gives him an excellent opportunity of learning public sentiment. Last winter I lectured before nearly a hundred of such associations, all over the North-from Dubuque to Bangor-and I took pains to ascertain the feeling of the people. I found a unanimous determination to crush the rebellion and save the Union at every sacrifice. The majority are in favor of Mr. Lincoln, and nearly all of those opposed to him are opposed to him because they think he does not fight you with enough vigor. The radical republicans, who go for slave-suffrage and thorough confiscation, are those who will defeat him, if he is defeated. But if he is defeated before the people, the House will elect a worse man-I mean worse for you. It is more radical than he is-you can see that from Mr. Ashley's Reconstruction Bill--and the people are more radical than the House. Mr. Lincoln, I know, is about to call out five hundred thousand more men, and I can't see how you can resist much longer; but if you do, you will only deepen the radical feeling of the Northern people! They will now

[ocr errors]

give you fair, honorable, generous terms; but let them suffer much more, let there be a dead man in every house, as there is now in every village, and they will give you no terms-they will insist on hanging every rebel south of Pardon my terms. I mean no offence."

"You give no offence," he replied, smiling very pleasantly. "I wouldn't have you pick your words. This is a frank, free talk, and I like you the better for saying what you think. Go on."

"I was merely going to say, that let the Northern people once really feel the war-they do not feel it yet-and they will insist on hanging every one of your leaders.".

[ocr errors]

Well, admitting all you say, I can't see how it affects our position. There are some things worse than hanging or extermination. We reckon giving up the right of self-government one of those things."

"By self-government you mean disunionSouthern independence?"


"And slavery, you say, is no longer an element in the contest."

"No, it is not, it never was an essential element. It was only a means of bringing other conflicting elements to an earlier culmination. It fired the musket which was already capped and loaded. There are essential differences between the North and the South that will, however this war may end, make them two nations."

"You ask me to say what I think. Will you allow me to say that I know the South pretty well, and never observed those differences?"

"Then you have not used your eyes. My sight is poorer than yours, but I have seen them for years."

The laugh was upon me, and Mr. Benjamin enjoyed it.

[ocr errors]

Well, sir, be that as it may, if I understand you, the dispute between your government and ours is narrowed down to this: Union or Disunion."

"Yes; or to put it in other words: Independence or Subjugation."

"Then the two governments are irreconcilably apart. They have no alternative but to fight it out. But it is not so with the people. They are tired of fighting, and want peace; and as they bear all the burden and suffering of the war, is it not right they should have peace, and have it on such terms as they like ?"


I don't understand you. Be a little more explicit."

"Well, suppose the two governments should agree to something like this: To go to the people with two propositions: say Peace, with Disunion and Southern Independence, as your proposition-and Peace, with Union, Emancipation, no Confiscation, and Universal Amnesty, as ours. Let the citizens of all the United States (as they. existed before the war) vote 'Yes,' or 'No,' on these two propositions, at a special election, within sixty days. If a majority votes Disunion, our government to be bound by it, and to let


you go in peace. If a majority votes Union, yours to be bound by it, and to stay in peace. The two governments can contract in this way, and the people, though constitutionally unable to decide on peace or war, can elect which of the two propositions shall govern their rulers. Let Lee and Grant, meanwhile, agree to an armistice. This would sheathe the sword; and if once sheathed, it would never again be drawn by this generation."

"They are very generous," replied Mr. Davis, "But amnesty, sir, apfor the first time during the interview showing We have committed no some angry feelings. plies to criminals. crime. Confiscation is of no account, unless you can enforce it. And emancipation! You have already emancipated nearly two millions of our slaves-and if you will take care of them, you may emancipate the rest. I had a few when the war began. I was of some use to them; they never were of any to me. Against their will you 'emancipated' them; and you may emancipate'

"The plan is altogether impracticable. If the South were only one State, it might work; but as it is, if one Southern State objected to eman-every negro in the Confederacy, but we will be cipation, it would nullify the whole thing; for you are aware the people of Virginia cannot vote slavery out of South Carolina, nor the people of South Carolina vote it out of Virginia."

"But three-fourths of the States can amend the Constitution. Let it be done in that way-in any way, so that it be done by the people. I am not a statesman or a politician, and I do not know just how such a plan could be carried out; but you get the idea that the PEOPLE shall decide the question."

"That the majority shall decide it, you mean. We seceded to rid ourselves of the rule of the majority, and this would subject us to it again. But the majority must rule finally, either with bullets or ballots."

"I am not so sure of that. Neither current events nor history shows that the majority rules, The contrary, I think, is true. or ever did rule. Why, sir, the man who should go before the Southern people with such a proposition, with any proposition which implied that the North was to have a voice in determining the domestic relations of the South, could not live here a day. He would be hanged to the first tree, without judge or jury."

free! We will govern ourselves. We will do it, if we have to see every Southern plantation sacked, and every Southern city in flames."

"I see, Mr. Davis, it is useless to continue this conversation," I replied; "and you will pardon us, if we have seemed to press our views with too much pertinacity. We love the old flag, and that must be our apology for intruding upon you at all."

"You have not intruded upon me," he replied, "I am glad to have resuming his usual manner. met you both. I once loved the old flag as well as you do; I would have died for it; but now it is to me only the emblem of oppression."

"I hope the day may never come, Mr. Davis, when I say that," said the Colonel.

A half-hour's conversation on other topicsnot of public interest-ensued, and then we rose to go. As we did so, the Rebel President gave me his hand, and, bidding me a kindly good-bye, expressed the hope of seeing me again in Richmond in happier times when peace should have returned; but with the Colonel his parting was particularly cordial. Taking his hand in both of his, he said to him:


Colonel, I respect your character and your motives, and I wish you well-I wish you every good I can wish you consistently with the interre-ests of the Confederacy."

"Allow me to doubt that. I think it more likely he would be hanged, if he let the Southern people know the majority couldn't rule," I plied, smiling.

"I have no fear of that," rejoined Mr. Davis, also smiling most good-humoredly. "I give you leave to proclaim it from every house-top in the South."

"But, seriously, sir, you let the majority rule in a single State; why not let it rule in the whole country?"

"Because the States are independent and sovereign. The country is not. It is only a confederation of States; or rather it was: it is now two confederations."

"Then we are not a people-we are only a political partnership ?"

"That is all."

"Your very name, sir, United States,' implies that," said Mr. Benjamin. "But, tell me, are the terms you have named-Emancipation, No Confiscation, and Universal Amnesty-the terms .which Mr. Lincoln authorized you to offer us?"

"No, sir, Mr. Lincoln did not authorize me to offer you any terms. But I think both he and the Northern people, for the sake of peace, would assent to some such conditions."

The quiet, straightforward bearing and magnificent moral courage of our "fighting parson' had evidently impressed Mr. Davis very favorably.

As we were leaving the room, he added:

"Say to Mr. Lincoln from me, that I shall at any time be pleased to receive proposals for peace on the basis of our independence. It will be useless to approach me with any other."

When we went out, Mr. Benjamin called Judge Ould, who had been waiting during the whole interview-two hours-at the other end of the hall, and we passed down the stairway together. As I put my arm within that of the Judge, he said to me:

"Well, what is the result?"



Nothing but war-war to the knife."

Ephraim is joined to his idols-let him alone," added the Colonel, solemnly.

I should like to relate the incidents of the next day, when we visited Castle Thunder, Libby Prison, and the hospitals occupied by our wounded; but the limits of a magazine article will not permit. I can only say that at sundown

we passed out of the Rebel lines, and at ten
o'clock that night stretched our tired limbs on
the "
downy" cots in General Butler's tent,
thankful, devoutly thankful, that we were once
again under the folds of the old flag.

Doc. 16.



CHATTANOOGA, January 27, 1865.

GENERAL: I have the honor to submit the following report of the operations of my command during the recent campaign, which resulted in the defeat of the enemy before Nashville, and

his retreat to Alabama.

This position was strongly fortified by my troops, and held until they were withdrawn to to participate in the action on the fifteenth of December.

December 5 and 7.

By order of Major-General Thomas I directed a small brigade of colored troops, under the command of Colonel T. J. Morgan, of the Fourteenth United States colored troops, and the Sixty-eighth Indiana volunteers and Sixth Indiana dismounted cavalry, under the command of Colonel Biddle, to reconnoitre the position of the enemy in my front.

the left of the works constructed by my comThis force on both days drove the enemy from mand on Raine's farm, which he had taken possession of after my troops abandoned them.

A detailed account of the results will be found

in the report of Colonel Morgan, herewith for


December 11.

These reconnoisances were conducted by the and In obedience to the orders of Major-General officers in command with prudence, energy, Thomas, my command, consisting of the Eight-ability, and were successful in developing the eenth regiment Ohio volunteers, Sixty-eighth enemy's position. regiment Indiana volunteers, Sixth Indiana dismounted cavalry, Fourteenth, Sixteenth, and Forty-fourth United States colored troops, detachments of the Fourteenth, Twentieth, and Seventeenth army corps, organized into a pro-eral Thomas, I directed Brigadier-General Cruft In compliance with the order of Major-Genvisional division, and commanded by BrigadierGeneral Charles Cruft, and the Eighteenth Ohio and Twentieth Indiana batteries, amounting in the aggregate to about fifty-two hundred men, moved from Chattanooga by railroad on the twenty-ninth day of November, and proceeded to Cowan, Tennessee, where I took my command from the cars the next morning at eight o'clock and placed it in position.

At six o'clock P. M. of the same day I received an order by telegraph from the Major-General commanding, to proceed as rapidly as possible with my command and report to him at Nashville, arriving at that place at five o'clock P. M. on the first day of December.

By an accident to one of the trains the command of Colonel Johnson, of the Forty-fourth United States colored troops, was detained until the morning of the second December, when the train conveying his troops was attacked by the cavalry of the enemy, five miles south of Nashville.

I herewith submit Colonel Johnson's report of his encounter with the enemy.

to reconnoitre the enemy's position. This remand of Colonel J. G. Mitchell), owing to the connoisance (made by a brigade under the comwhole surface of the country being covered with ice, rendering it almost impossible for men or animals to move over uneven ground, and on account of the steep slopes to be ascended in approaching the position of the enemy, was a difficult duty; but it was accomplished, and the position of the enemy developed.

December 13.

In obedience to the order of Major-General Thomas, a brigade of General Cruft's troops, under the command of Colonel A. G. Malloy, reconnoitred in front of my position and felt the enemy's right. The ground being still covered with smooth ice, rendered the movement tedious and hazardous; but, under all the disadvantages, was skillfully executed, the enemy forced into his works, and the object of the reconnoissance accomplished. The movement was made under the immediate direction of General Cruft.

December 15.

On the second day of December I moved my The weather having moderated and the command, by order of the Major-General commanding, into position, and occupied and fortified ground thawed sufficiently to enable men and the ridge between the Murfreesboro and Nolens- animals to stand up, in obedience to the orders ville pikes, and crossing the Nashville and Chat-ion of troops, under the command of Brigadierof Major-General Thomas, the provisional divistanooga railroad on Raine's farm.

December 3.

By order of Major-General Thomas I withdrew my command from the position occupied the day previous, and placed it on a line indicated, nearer the city of Nashville, on the north side of Brown's Creek, extending from the Nolensville pike across the Murfreesboro pike, the left resting near the house of Major Lewis, a short distance from the Lebanon pike.

General Cruft, moved at four o'clock A. M., and relieved the troops of the Fourth and Twentythird army corps, occupying their exterior line of works and picketing the front of this line from the Acklin Place to Fort Negley, and commanding the approaches to the city by the Granny White, Franklin and Nolensville turnpikes.

Brigadier-General J. F. Miller reported his command to me at four o'clock A. M., and occupied

the works from Fort Negley to the Lebanon pike, commanding the approaches to the city by the Murfreesboro, Chicken and Lebanon turnpikes.

Brigadier-General J. L. Donelson reported his command at six o'clock, and occupied the works from the right of General Cruft's command to the Cumberland river, commanding the approaches to the city by the Harding and Hillsboro' turnpikes.

ried the left of the front line of works of the enemy, resting on the Nolensville pike. This portion of the enemy's line was held by Colonel Thompson's command until the morning of the sixteenth.

During the operations of my command against the enemy's right, General Cruft, holding the exterior line protecting the city, and watching vigilantly all the movements, saw an opportunity to use his artillery on a flying column of the enemy's troops, and promptly ordered the Twenty-fourth Indiana battery, Captain Sturm, to open, which he did with effect, scattering and demoralizing this force.

December 16.

Having thus disposed the troops as directed, for the protection of the city, fully commanding all its approaches, and rendering the public property and supplies secure against sudden attack from either flank, I moved out at half-past six Darkness closed the operations of the day; o'clock A. M., in obedience to the orders of Major-all the orders I received from Major-General General Thomas, with the Twelfth, Thirteenth Thomas had been executed; his plans successand One Hundredth regiments of colored troops, ful, and victory crowned our efforts. Throughunder the command of Colonel Thompson, of out the day, and until the action closed at dark, the Twelfth colored; the Fourteenth, Seven-my command behaved nobly, making the several teenth, Forty-fourth and a detachment of the assaults ordered with cool, steady bravery, Eighteenth regiments colored troops, under retiring only when ordered to do so. A portion command of Colonel T. J. Morgan, of the Four-of the command suffered severely, but no troops teenth colored; the Sixty-eighth Indiana volun- behaving as gallantly as they did, in assaulting teers, Eighteenth Ohio volunteers, and the fortified position, could have suffered less, or Second battalion, Fourteenth army corps, under borne their losses more heroically. command of Lieutenant-Colonel C. H. Grosvenor, and the Twentieth Indiana and Eighteenth Ohio batteries to attack the enemy's right, employ his At six o'clock a. M., in obedience to the orders forces at that point, and as far as possible by of Major-General Thomas, my command moved my movements to mislead him as to real point on the enemy's works, and found that he had of attack. The fog was very dense, and delayed, evacuated the right of his line, in my front, somewhat, movements on the entire line. A few during the night. Pushing out my troops on minutes before eight, when the fog had par- the Nolensville pike, rapidly driving his cavalry, tially cleared away, and all my dispositions had I took up a position between the Nolensville been made for attack, Brigadier-General W. D. pike and the left of the Fourth corps, comWhipple, Chief of Staff of the Department of manded by Brigadier-General T. J. Wood, my the Cumberland, instructed me, by order of right. resting on the railroad, my left reposing Major-General Thomas, as to the time of attack. near the Nolensville pike, and covering the At eight o'clock, the time designated, the attack entire left of our line, engaging and putting to was made by the troops of Colonel Morgan and flight a portion of the enemy's cavalry. GenLieutenant-Colonel Grosvenor, Colonel Morgan eral Cruft, as I advanced with the troops under commanding-advancing from the Murfreesboro my immediate command, uncovering the apturnpike towards Riddler's Hill, rapidly driving proaches to the city by way of the Murfreesin the pickets of the enemy and assaulting his boro and Nolensville turnpikes, promptly pushed line of works between the U. and C. railroad forward a brigade of his troops under the comand the Murfreesboro turnpike. In this assault mand of Colonel John G. Mitchell, and occupied the troops behaved well, carrying a portion of Riddle's Hill, protecting our rear against any the enemy's works, but as they were exposed attempt of the enemy to use his cavalry to to a destructive fire, (the enemy rapidly reën-annoy us, or interfere with our ammunition forcing that part of his line), and as my object was to deceive the enemy as to the purposes of the Major-General commanding, I withdrew this force and immediately re-formed it for an attack on a force occupying an earth-work, east of and within short musket range of the Raine's house.

or ambulance trains.

At one o'clock P. M., in obedience to an order from Major-General Thomas, my command formed a junction with the command of General Wood, and my troops united with General Wood's in assaulting the enemy, who was strongly posted and fortified on Overton's Hill. This attack was made at eleven o'clock A. M., In this assault, although unsuccessful, the troops and resulted in my troops getting possession of engaged-two brigades of General Wood's, and the Raine's house and other adjacent brick out- Colonel Thompson's brigade of colored troops, buildings, which were loop-holed and held until and Lieutenant-Colonel Grosvenor's brigade from the next morning. While these attacks were my command-exhibited courage and steadiness being made by the troops under Colonel Mor- that challenged the admiration of all who witgan, Colonel Thompson's command moved across nessed the charge. The concentrated fire of Brown's creek, between the Nolensville and musketry and canister from the enemy's works Murfreesboro turnpikes, and attacked and car-forced them back with severe loss. They were

« PreviousContinue »